A few years into my long stay in Japan, the nation was suddenly caught in a grip of what was called the tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) boom. Restaurants of all stripes were now providing goodies in the form of buffets or all-you-can-eat or all-you-can-drink specials. Curry, desserts, Korean BBQ...all was fair game. For about a decade, my friend and I used to haunt this place right on the border between Ginza and Shimbashi called The Farm Grill which was located underneath an expressway. Every weekend, they offered an all-you-can-eat thing for 3000 yen, and it was a true feast of Japanese and Western. Everything from roast chicken, beef, sushi and all sorts of other food were up for grabs under that price. You can imagine the valentines in my eyes during those heady days.
Well, after those 10 years, The Farm Grill called it a day. Still, the tabehodai boom basically became the tabehodai genre. Even though my favourite buffet place went out of business, there were plenty of other places for me to shovel down copious amounts of meat, vegetables and carbs under a set price within a set time.
With "Uta Kon" (うたコン) on hiatus until the New Year, NHK has been substituting specials in its time slot including the show "Osaka Melody" which was on a few weeks ago. Of course, when one is focusing on Osaka, food will inevitably pop up in the conversation even if it is a music show since the city is known as "the stomach of Japan". Sure enough, in one segment, enka chanteuse Sachiko Kobayashi（小林幸子）appeared out of the blue within a yakiniku restaurant with Hikomaro（彦摩呂）the fat and famous foodie tarento (I will be talking about that fellow on a future entry) to perform a ditty called "Yodel Tabehodai" (Yodeling All-You-Can-Eat).
To hear this comical little tune about the joys of all-you-can-eat done up as a Swiss yodel caught my attention. Mind you, seeing all that luscious meat hitting the grill during the song did the same thing, too.
Well, after doing a bit of digging, I found out that "Yodel Tabehodai" was the creation of a fellow by the name of Repeat Yamanaka（リピート山中）with the original performance by singer and rakugo artist Jakusaburo Katsura（桂雀三郎）with three fellow rakugo artists providing backup as the Manpuku Brothers（まんぷくブラザース...The Full Stomach Brothers）. The theme of "Yodel Tabehodai" was about the love for that all-you-can-eat yakiniku special as Katsura sang out all of the prime ingredients for a fine Korean BBQ dinner, something that I can totally relate with.
"Yodel Tabehodai" first made its presence known as a track on an album called "Yagura Koushinkyoku" (やぐら行進曲....Yagura Marches) that was released in February 1996. However several months later in November, the song was re-recorded with a small tweak in the lyrics and then released as a single. Initially, it didn't make all that much of an impact (and probably no one expected it to since it was just a comical song about yakiniku) with most of the sales happening in the Kansai area.
However a few years later in 2000, requests started to pour in faster than an order of kalbi on a weekend on a radio program which had been playing the song. The fuse was lit and this time even the Kanto area started to take notice of "Yodel Tabehodai", and gradually, the song sold 150,000 copies. I can only wonder whether there was a sudden boom in hitting the yakiniku restaurants.
I do have to leave this article with the confession of my favourite way to end up a hearty meal at a yakiniku restaurant and that is with a hot bowl of kalbi kuppa. It's this soup which basically summarizes my entire experience at the restaurant since it includes pretty much everything I had from the grill (meat, vegetables, rice and spices). It was definitely redundant and probably quite unhealthy but I was happy with my choice.